2015 was huge year for innovation in technology. We started to see amazing things conceptualized and implemented, such as autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, smart watches, and 4K displays. With all of these unfathomable and unexpected innovations coming last year, it makes it increasingly difficult to predict what is coming this year. Luckily, the beginning of the year is kicked off with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The Consumer Electronics Show aims to focus the blurred lens that is innovation. It helps us see what is coming throughout the course of the year and gives consumers something to look forward to. Let’s take a look at what is in store for us over the next 12 months.
Flying cars have been a thing of the future for way too long; the time has come to make this fantasy a reality. EHANG, a company based in China, showcased a prototype for a new, autonomous, one-seater drone. This drone allows for one passenger (and a backpack or suitcase up to 16 inches) to travel from one location to another, via drone flight. As with all brand new innovations, the first model is obviously not going to be completely perfect. This prototype shows a brand new realm of possibilities for drones and will hopefully drive competition and innovation to force this concept to become perfected in the coming years.
Currently, the EHANG 184 will only be able to fly for about 25 minutes before needing to charge. It has not been approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration yet, so we will not be seeing it commercially available in the US for quite some time. However, it will be available in China within the next three or four months for a price between $200,000 and $300,000. The drone is controlled via a 12 inch tablet in the cabin of the vehicle. You simply tap on a location on the map, choose an altitude (relatively low, medium, or high) and hit “Take Off”. After that, the drone does the rest and you just sit back and relax. The cabin is equipped with an air conditioner and a reading light, which is pretty much all you need for a 25 minute flight. It’s really exciting to see the development of this technology, and I hope it inspires competitors to work on the same concept and create more commercially available flying vehicles in the near future.
Who ever said Polaroid’s were out of date? Polaroid is making a surprisingly huge comeback in an era where it did not seem to be possible. We live in an All-Things-Digital Era; people are posting their pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Therefore, a camera with a printer is not necessary anymore, right? Wrong! People love the instantaneity and tangibility of Polaroids. But that doesn’t mean the company can’t innovate and take it one step further. The new Polaroid Snap is a simple and affordable camera (currently priced at $99 with more affordable film) that makes capturing a moment and having it print out right in front of you faster than ever before. The camera uses premium, Zero-Ink (ZINK) Paper which allows for beautiful, smudge free pictures. In addition to that, this camera understands that you might still want to keep the photo so you can post it on your favorite social media outlet. It allows you to store photos on a memory card up to 32 GB. The new Snap+, another instant camera which will be released later this year, will also include an LCD Display, so you can see your photo on the camera, and will also have WiFi Capibility, so you can send your photos immediately while still having a physical copy for yourself.
Smart Fridge: Samsung Family Hub
The kitchen is one of the most important places in a house, and has surprisingly received the least amount of innovation throughout the technological revolution. Samsung is aiming to change that. Their new refrigerator, the Samsung Family Hub, has got to be one of the most innovational pieces of technology I have seen. There is so much practical application to this device. It allows you to peek inside your fridge when you are out shopping, so you know exactly what to buy.
To take things one step even further, it allows you to order groceries and other items, directly using the fridge and its WiFi functionality. Samsung understands that the fridge is also a place for family members to communicate and to showcase accomplishments and create plans. With Family Sharing, it syncs events from your calendar on your phone straight to your fridge (only if it is an event you would like to share). That way, everyone knows what you are up to and it makes it easier to schedule some fun for the entire family. You can set times for Dinner, for Soccer Practice, etc. and have it show up in a consolidated, aesthetically appealing layout, right on the fridge. And as if that was not enough, Samsung took it even further. The fridge allows you to take notes and put them directly on the fridge, simply using your fingers. It can play music off the internet, tune into radio stations, and videos can be watched on the fridge. It is going to be really exciting to see how this technology develops and what the future holds for innovation in the kitchen.
A Few More Notable Mentions
CES this year was huge. There were a lot of other products that garnered a lot of attention that I encourage you to check out. Among other major innovations at the show were wireless headphones. Jaybird came out with the Jaybird Freedom, and Bragi unveiled the highly anticipated Bragi Dash. The Jaybird Freedom is a more traditional Bluetooth wireless headphone with a wire connecting the two ear buds together that comfortably wrap around your neck. The Bragi Dash is just two ear buds that you put into each of your ears. These ear buds have 4 GB of internal storage, so you can play your music straight from the headphones or pair them with your phone. In addition to that, they have a built in microphone and touchpads on each of the ear buds to make it easy to interact with your content. TVs were also a big deal this year. Samsung and LG both showcased 8K TVs, which are so high res that there really isn’t much content that is capable of utilizing all the extra pixels. Needless to say, they were extremely impressive and sharper than ever before. On top of these innovations, there were also other interesting concepts unveiled such as smart helmets, modular phone cases, and much more. These showcased technologies have shown that 2016 is definitely going to be a big leap in innovation.